Fifth man dead in UP's rural health fund scam

Fifth man dead in UP's rural health fund scam
Rae Bareilly:  The scam in Uttar Pradesh that saw corrupt bureaucrats and politicians siphoning away crores meant to improve health facilities may be responsible for a fifth death.

Mahendra Sharma, a clerk with the Health Department in Uttar Pradesh, has been found dead in Lakhimpur. A post-mortem report is expected this evening.

Mr Sharma was a clerk with a community health centre. His family alleges that he was being forced by senior health officials to fabricate documents that showed funds being spent on medicines and other supplies. They suspect he was murdered.

"He has injuries all over his body. We informed them that my father has not reached home... when we went to there we saw his body... no one came to help him... We found some documents. He was under pressure," said Mr Sharma's son Neeraj.

Mahendra Sharma's death, right in the middle of the Uttar Pradesh elections, couldn't have come at a worse time for chief minister Mayawati. Leading the attack was Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi. "I think it's a very sad situation that the central government sends funds for the people and obviously that the fact that these things are happening means that they are being used wrongly and there is a lot of corruption," said Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi.

The BJP, already facing flack for embracing Mayawati's sacked family welfare minister Babu Singh Kushwaha, as a whistleblower, attacked the UP chief minister for turning a blind eye to corruption on such a massive scale. "A lot of skeletons are still going to come out. The larger issue is about the liability of Mayawati herself as the Chief Minister and also the earlier regime of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The entire scam lasts to about last seven-eight years spanning into at least Rs 5000 crore, that's important," said BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad.

The scam was birthed in the Family Welfare department in Mayawati's government, which handled the huge funds sent by the centre for the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) Scheme.

In 2010-11, two senior doctors associated with the Family Welfare ministry were murdered within months of each other. Then, the man who stepped in for them was also found dead in a Lucknow jail. In January, an officer with the UP Jal Nigam, committed suicide allegedly because he was being investigated for a role in the scam.

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